With playoffs on their minds, the Mountain Pointe Pride had one last job to do in their regular-season finale Friday, and they took their sweet time doing it.
Tied at halftime against Corona del Sol, a 1-8 team, Mountain Pointe erupted with 28 points in the third quarter and added an insurance touchdown in the fourth to roll past the Aztecs, 49-14, at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.
The win assured the Pride (6-4) their 10th straight winning record and earned them the No. 8 seed Saturday morning in the 6A playoffs. They open at home Friday, Nov. 2, against No. 9 Brophy.
“I told them (at halftime) to do their job,” said Mountain Pointe first-year coach Rich Wellbrock. “When you do your job, it becomes a simple game and things seem to flow. It’s when we don’t do our job and we start thinking we have to do someone else’s job (that we struggle). That was our simple adjustment at halftime.”
A disquieting opening half has become a recurring theme for Mountain Pointe, which trailed Desert Ridge by 14 points a week earlier, Chaparral by 10 two weeks earlier, and squandered several scoring opportunities and was tied with Desert Vista at the half three weeks earlier.
At the outset Friday, though, it appeared the Pride was primed for the anticipated rout of an opponent that had lost seven straight games. Pride defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepted Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game.
But the Aztecs would fight back and put together two solid scoring drives to keep pace with the Pride, whose offensive line struggled with pass protection and run blocking.
The opening snap of the second half was just as electrifying as the first for the Pride as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt kept the ball and dashed 79 yards around right end along the sideline for a touchdown that seemed to awaken a sleeping giant.
The Pride went back to a formation that has been effective, with running backs Eli Sanders, a sophomore, and Jakim McKinney, a senior, in the game together on either side of Wallerstedt in the shotgun. Mountain Pointe kept the Corona del Sol defense guessing as the trio of backs combined for 388 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Sanders scored on runs of 48, 38 and 46 yards.
“I thought our kids ran the ball hard in the second half,” Wellbrock said. “The holes were there and when we needed someone to make the plays, Nick, Eli and Jakim were there to make the plays. And that helps.”
The Pride defense also upped their game, applying more pressure to Helt, sticking with receivers and stuffing the rush as they shut out the Aztecs in the second half.
Mountain Pointe is in the playoffs for the 10th straight season. In eight of the previous nine years, the Pride reached the semifinals or beyond, including one state title.
“Once we figure out who it is we need to get back to the details, make sure we are focused on the details, and that goes across the board offensively, defensively, and special teams,” Wellbrock said of playoff preparation.
Corona del Sol ends its season at 1-9.
Mountain Pointe 49, Corona del Sol 14
Corona del Sol 7 7 0 0 – 14
Mountain Pointe 7 7 28 7 – 49
MP – Dedrick 25 interception return (Abercrombie kick), 11:45.
Corona – Luscombe 22 run (Echerivel kick), 8:40.
MP – Sanders 48 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:42.
Corona – Bullard 9 pass from Helt (Echerivel kick), 0:43.
MP – Wallerstedt 78 run (Abercrombie kick), 11:36.
MP – Sanders 38 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:35.
MP – Wallerstedt 4 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:05.
MP – Sanders 46 run (Abercrombie kick), 0:50.
MP – McKinney 19 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:29.
First downs 16 11
Rush-yards 41-438 19-110
Comp-Att-Int 7-14-0 20-42-2
Pass yards 25 186
Total yards 463 296
Fumbles/lost 1/0 3/2
Penalties 10-84 2-20
Mountain Pointe –Sanders 10-164, Wallerstedt 10-146, McKinney 12-78, Rivera 6-27, Washington 3-23. Corona del Sol – Luscombe 11-61, Gutierrez 4-38, Shaw 2-6, Helt 2-5.
Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 25 yards. Corona del Sol – Helt 20-42-2, 186.
Mountain Pointe – Davis 2-9, Sanders 2-7, Gomez 2-3, Washington 1-6. Corona del Sol – Pearsall 9-122, Blackwell 2-21, Bullard 2-14, Luscombe 2-9, Rock 1-12, Echerivel 1-11, Shaw 1-6, Gutierrez 1-2, Brice 1- (-1).